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Reviews - A Touch of Evil: The Madness
 
by Lee Valentine


The Madness expansion cards

A Touch of Evil: The Madness expansion

Published by Flying Frog Productions
Designed by Jason C. Hill
2-8 players
Available only direct from Flying Frog Productions
$9.95 + shipping

If you read my review of Flying Frog Production's newest game A Touch of Evil (ATOE), you'll know that I'm a fan and I play it frequently. To go along with my copy of ATOE, I recently purchased a 14-card mini-expansion for the game, called The Madness after one of the new Mystery cards in the set. The Madness is available only directly from Flying Frog Productions as a promo expansion set. While supplies last, the Frog is including two bonus alternate art promo cards (the Event card "Recovery" and the Mystery card "Choices to Be Made").

Components & Packaging
Like the cards from the base set, these are high quality, thick, full color, glossy playing cards. The ones I received had a trim size slightly different than the cards in the base set, meaning that I can feel the difference a bit when I'm shuffling the decks of cards. As with the rest of the cards in ATOE, the cards in The Madness expansion set have a CCG-style layout with a combination of color enhanced photos of actors in Colonial era costumes combined occasionally with illustrations. One of the cards, "Veil of Darkness", features a photo that's a bit more drab than most of the other photos in the game. At least one attempt to combine a photo with an illustration (on the card "Swallowed in the Night") was not as successful a marriage of the two elements, detracting from the card's overall appearance. Most of the cards in The Madness expansion look quite decent, particularly the vibrantly colored card from which the set draws its name.

The cards were shipped in a small, hard plastic, telescoping card case that is suitable for keeping the expansion in separately if you don't want to permanently mix the cards into your base game. So that potentially counts as great packaging, as long as you don't want to store the expansion in the base game's box (which is already tight on space). One mild disappointment that I had with this set has more to do with the original game's packaging than this expansion. I did mix the expansion into the base game for storage and some of the stacks of cards in the card wells in the original ATOE boxed set are now overflowing a bit, making the cards more prone to movement in the box when transporting the game.

Set Composition
Eight of the cards are made up of two cards each for the decks of the four corner sites of interest (The Manor, The Windmill, The Abandoned Keep, and the Olde Woods). One card of each pair is a challenging skill encounter while the other one is a new item. The other six cards in the expansion are two new mystery cards (with one duplicate of the Mystery "The Madness") and two new Event cards (with one duplicate of the "Accusation" Event).

While I won't bother providing a card-by-card description of the set (I included a link to the spoiler list below), I will comment on my experience playing the set and touch upon a few cards. First, I should address the new Mystery "The Madness". There are two copies of it. The first player in the game round is the one who always draws the Mystery card for that round. That player is in for a nasty surprise, because until the Shadow Track clicks down a few steps, the newly mad Hero moves to a random location on each of his turns (drawing a Lair card to determine the location) instead of rolling for movement. If you had no particular agenda or no fear of getting into a scrap with a Minion, then this could be a nice change of pace since you will never be stuck landing on a blank road space - you'll always land on a named space with something to do. It just may not be what you wanted to do. The Shadow Track has its 20 spaces divided up into five stages (something I intentionally omitted from my review of ATOE), and when the Shadow Track hits a new stage then "The Madness" has a 2/3 chance to discard itself and a 1/3 chance to hop onto a new rider. Typically hopping on to a new Hero makes this a real lingering nuisance in cooperative play, but is a fiendish twist of the knife in competitive play if you get to stick someone else with this blight. As this card has the "Hysteria" trait on it, there are a couple of cards in the base game's Event deck that can cancel its effects. "The Madness" Mystery card is a back breaker in a competitive game, particularly late game, when you are trying to make your way to the Blacksmith's shop to stock up on Town Items or you are trying to make your way to a specific board space for a Showdown.

Another Mystery card called "Veil of Darkness" is a real game changer, moving the Shadow Track two steps toward darkness each time a Hero is KO'd. Featuring a picture of the Spectral Horseman, this card's image was well chosen, because when the Horseman is the Villain he frequently rides randomly through the streets of the village taking a swipe at every hero in his path. Since I've seen the Horseman KO the same character five times in one game, this is a truly menacing card that can quickly shorten a cooperative game. The cooperative game will tend to have more encounters with the Horseman than a competitive game because of the rules differences between the two.

The loot in the four corner decks feature some really great "buffs" in this expansion. Of particular note is the "Dueling Pistol" which grants you +1 Honor and gives you the ability to fight using your Honor score instead of your Combat score, something that was not possible in the base game.

Rules
This set comes with a one page card list and rules supplement to play the cards. I found most of the rules supplement page to be unnecessary, and some parts were potentially obfuscatory. One rules comment on the sheet was actually included because of the name of one of the new cards, "Accusation". This card allows you to reveal the Secrets of a Town Elder during a Showdown, netting you 6 Investigation if they turn out to be an Evil Elder. While the card has another alternative mode of use, this mode of use is so similar in timing and purpose to the game action of the same name that it raises a rules question which has to be answered on the one page rules supplement. One would think that by simply naming the card something else the rules question might be avoided. Not a serious detraction, but a potentially unnecessary rules nuisance for neophytes.

Conclusions
Overall I feel that the four new corner encounter cards plus the two new Mystery cards (plus one duplicate) really up the danger level of the game quite a bit when they hit the table. "The MadnessÓ, in particular, adds a hugely random element which I'm not sure that I like, as it makes me feel like the game is playing me than the other way around. However, the new Item cards are pretty delicious and players will be eager to try them out. This set is, in my mind, for players who already are familiar with the base game and want a change of pace. This is particularly true with "The Madness" Mystery card as it may aggravate the affected player. Thankfully the promo cards all have a promo symbol on them, making them pretty easy to separate. At a price of $9.95 plus a couple of bucks for shipping, this is a pretty steep price to pay for 16 cards (including the two bonus promo cards I received). I think this is a nice additional investment for true fans of the game, but I am not certain that this set is absolutely necessary to own unless you've mastered the base game and want to kick it up a notch. In spite of its price, I was not disappointed with this expansion pack, and I still intend on picking up the Something Wicked boxed set for A Touch of Evil when it comes out.

 

Lee's ratings:
Overall: B
Appearance: B+ (very good overall, with a couple of sub-par card images, and a slight deviation of card trim size)
Playability: B (a mixed bag of very good cards with a few questionable ones)

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